After 52 years of service, Golden Knights have created many traditions. At the same time, several communities have inducted us into theirs. One such community to involve the Golden Knights into their annual traditions, is Gray Tennessee. For several years, Golden Knights performed aerial demonstrations into their annual fair. We became a regular sight in their Tennessee skies. The small community looked forward to our visit every year. However, the black and gold of Army parachutes have been absent since 1996. Black Team was honored to represent the Team’s return on Monday, August 22nd.
From the moment that Black Team and the Women’s Free Fall Formation Team arrived, we were welcomed with such an exuberant welcome from every person. Gray, Tennessee’s residents shared the emptiness of attending their annual fair for so many years, without our contribution. Unanimously, this feeling was reflected through dozens of encounters.
Monday, the day of our arrival, we quickly took to the skies and returned the sought-after black and gold. Ten Army parachutes entered the fairgrounds and a lifetime of memories was returned to the community.
From Monday through Wednesday, the Team performed 5 parachute demonstrations into the fairgrounds. We entertained elementary students during the two afternoon performances and with the other three, opened the evening concerts.
Hundreds of locals shared an incredible gratitude for our return. Some of the most memorable were from those asking to take pictures with the Team. They then shared how they would be placing it directly next to their previous photo, from childhood visits with the Team.
Although none of the current demonstrators were a part of the past demonstrations into Gray, Tennessee, we felt the weight of our legacy. The legacy of the Team’s name is so powerful to our American Public. We were proud to have the opportunity to give back to the community and thank them for their tireless support of our Soldiers and Service Members.
With years of tradition and history, we have seen many Golden Knights come and go. We are always proud to attend a performance near our own predecessors. During the Gray Fairground performances, we had the opportunity to meet two previous members of the Team. Once a Golden Knight, always a Golden Knight. It’s always a privilege to learn of our own history from those, who lived them. Among the two alumni, was one of the original Golden Knights.
Dick Fortenberry was a member of the original Team. Back in 1959, the team wasn’t yet known as the Golden Knights. He was able to be a part of the original development and evolution of the STRAC Demonstration Team. He performed and competed, prior to being designated the Army’s official aerial demonstration team. He helped give the team its reputation of bringing home gold medals and conquering the skies, giving the Team its nickname… “Golden Knights.”